What is the Statute of Limitations on Child Support in Virginia?
As explained in Six Ways to Enforce A Child Support Order in Virginia, failure to pay a court-ordered child support obligation can have serious consequences in Virginia. Specifically, an obligor’s failure to pay can result in withholding of their wages, the suspension of professional, recreational or driver’s licenses, liens on their assets, interception of tax returns, restrictions on international travel, or even an order garnishing part of their retirement benefits.
After learning of their options for collecting past due child support, the next question many recipients of support have is: is there a statue of limitations on child support in Virginia?
The Virginia Supreme Court answered this question in 2011, when it ruled in Adcock v. Department of Social Services that child support obligations are set judgments which are subject to a 20-year statute of limitations. In Adcock, the father of a child was obligated, through a final decree of divorce entered in 1966, to pay $30 per week in child support to the child’s mother. In 2008, more than twenty years after the order, the Department of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) sought to reopen the matter to collect the support payments which were past due. The father attempted to prevent this, arguing that the action by DCSE was barred by the 20-year statute of limitations expressed in Virginia Code § 8.01-251(A).
The Circuit Court in Adcock held that child support obligations were not the type of judgments controlled by Virginia Code § 8.01-251(A), as they were ongoing payments and not liquidated, making the 20-year statute of limitations inapplicable and the father responsible for the past-due payments. This decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeals, before being appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court.
Reversing the decision of the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court in Adcock ruled that child support payments are vested unmodifiable judgments when they become due, and are not seen as an ongoing obligation until emancipation of the child or children. As each payment has a determined due date, the Supreme Court held that Virginia Code 8.01-251 (A) applies a 20-year statute of limitations to each child support payment from the date that each payment is due as expressed by the court order.
Therefore, under the Supreme Court’s ruling in Adcock, failure to bring an enforcement action within 20 years after the date that a child support obligation was due, will prevent any court or agency from collecting a payment for that obligation. However, since each payment is a separate judgment, a court can bifurcate those payments which are barred by the statute of limitations from those which are not.
If you have questions about past due child support, contact an experienced family law attorney. The family lawyers at Livesay & Myers have years of experience dealing with these and other child support issues in the courts of Northern Virginia. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.